WASHINGTON—U. S. President Donald Trump claimed again on Monday that his threat to impose tariffs on Canadian-made cars forced the Trudeau government into concessions on NAFTA.
Trump made the assertion while also calling the Canadians tough negotiators and saying the new agreement is good for both countries.
“You know, we think of O Canada. Well, O Canada’s tough. They’re tough. And I said, ‘Look, you know, you’re either gonna do this or we’re gonna put 20, 25 per cent tariffs on your cars that you ship in here by the millions,” he told a gathering of U.S. governors at the White House.
“And every time we had a problem, we’d just say, ‘That’s OK, don’t worry about it, we’ll put the tariffs on.’ They said, ‘OK, fine, that’s OK, we’ll sign.’”
Trump is still thinking about imposing tariffs on cars imported from Europe and Asia. In the agreement on the revised NAFTA, which Trump calls the USMCA, Canada secured a de facto exemption from any future Trump auto tariffs.
Adam Austen, a spokesperson for Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland, said the government kept its promise of making a good deal for Canada.
“We held out for that good deal and that is what we achieved. The new NAFTA supports good, middle-class jobs in Canada; strengthens economic ties between the three countries; and safeguards the more than $2 billion a day in cross-border trade and tariff-free access for more than 70 per cent of Canadian exports,” Austen said in an email.
Trump returned Monday to his regular complaint about Canada’s high dairy tariffs, claiming that “we did something about it” in the new agreement. While the agreement gives the U.S. more access to Canada’s dairy market, it does not touch the tariffs themselves.
Trump also claimed, wrongly, that Canada and Mexico were “closed to farmers” from the U.S. under NAFTA. According to Trump’s own Department of Agriculture, Canada was the top destination for U.S. agricultural exports in 2017, while Mexico was third.
Trump said he expected the new agreement to be approved by the Democratic-controlled U.S. House of Representatives. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other senior Democratic officials have signalled openness to the agreement but said they want changes to provisions on labour, the environment and pharmaceuticals.
“I know how much they hate me, but they have to hate me even more not to get this deal approved, OK? That’s the only thing I can say,” Trump said.
Daniel Dale is the Star’s Washington bureau chief. He covers U.S. politics and current affairs. Follow him on Twitter: @ddale8